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Tuesday Morning Brews: Pick of the (RB) Litter

Who will be Michigan’s lead RB next year? Find out my take and weigh in with your own in this morning’s Brews

Ilinois v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Welcome to Tuesday Brews and happy Father’s Day to readers to whom that may be applicable. Hopefully you all enjoyed your weekend. I’m mixing up the Brews a little bit this morning, starting off with something of a position preview/poll before getting into more traditional content. Today we’ll be featuring the RB group. Harbaugh’s backfield committee approach is likely to continue, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have a pecking order in mind like he did last year. We’ll be taking a look at who should seize that number one slot and giving you the option to weigh in as well. We’ll also be talking about who could lead the backfield in TDs for the 2017 season. After that, we have some confirmations from Coach Harbaugh on a couple items that have recently been widely reported.

Michigan v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Michigan’s ground attack saw marked gains last year in Harbaugh’s second year at the helm. The two constants between Harbaugh Year One and Harbaugh Year Two were DeVeon Smith and Ty Isaac, with the former playing the feature role during both years and topping the production charts (753 yds & 846 yds) and the latter more of a role player, yet doubling his production year over year (205 yds & 417 yds). With Smith gone, the question now becomes who steps up in Harbaugh Year Three. The candidates are the top producing returning backs (Chris Evans, Karan Higdon, and Ty Isaac) plus a couple newcomers (Kareem Walker, O’Maury Samuels, and Kurt Taylor).

The popular choice is sure to be Chris Evans, who was electric nearly every time he touched the ball (614 yds, 7.0 ypa, 4 TD). Evans was a burst of energy, with a high yards per attempt figure and shifty moves that often allowed him to find space. He also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, turning in a small number of productive receptions last year (6 rec., 87 yds, 14.5 ypc). However 2017 could also be the year that Ty Isaac breaks out and seizes the top spot. The former highly-touted recruit and USC transfer has had trouble staying on the field, but has also shown growth year over year (doubling both his yards and carries). Perhaps Harbaugh will favor the senior presence (as he arguably did with Smith) over the younger, more unpredictable options. Isaac, who tallied the third most carries last season, could step up to fill that role.

At the end of the day, though, I think Chris Evans is the man to beat. His agility and explosiveness are unmatched in the backfield. If Evans can gain strength during the offseason, he should be formidable. I think the bigger question is who will fill slots two through four. What Evans has in explosiveness, he lacks (or at least did last year) in power. Evans is listed at 200lbs, and I suspect he played under that weight last year. He wasn’t as successful between the tackles as Smith was (225lbs). Ty Isaac has the size to hit up inside (230lbs) but his previous carries don’t evidence a downhill running style. Kareem Walker is also a slightly larger back (210lbs) who could perhaps play the role of the bruiser. I expect the carries to be distributed (and yards at the end of the season) roughly in this order: Chris Evans, Ty Isaac, Kareem Walker, Karan Higdon.

Did I get it right? Weigh in below and in the comments.


Who will be michigan’s feature RB for the 2017 season?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Kareem Walker
    (141 votes)
  • 9%
    Ty Isaac
    (105 votes)
  • 72%
    Chris Evans
    (835 votes)
  • 4%
    Karan Higdon
    (56 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (explain in comments)
    (10 votes)
1147 votes total Vote Now

BYU v Michigan Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

While Evans may be my presumptive man to beat for the top slot in the RB pecking order, a much more difficult question is who will lead the team in rushing TDs next year. With Senior FB Khalid Hill returning, this is a more complicated question than who will be the feature back. Last year DeVeon Smith, being the feature back, received ~100 more carries than any other RB and scored 10 TDs. Hill, earning his nickname as The Hammering Panda, tied Smith for tops (10 TDs) but on only 25 carries. Hill is likely to reprise his role as the go-to guy near the goal line, but will increased carries mean that Evans (4 TDs), or Higdan (6 TDs), or Isaac (5 TDs) will find the endzone more than Hill next year? I think Evans will take this one too, benefiting from 100 or so more carries than in 2016, but only by the slightest of margins over Hill.


Who will score the most rushing TDs for Michigan next year?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Ty Isaac
    (68 votes)
  • 24%
    Chris Evans
    (172 votes)
  • 60%
    Khalid Hill
    (423 votes)
  • 4%
    Karan Higdon
    (31 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (explain in comments)
    (9 votes)
703 votes total Vote Now

Harbaugh Says Grant Perry Won’t Play Until Case Resolved

Jim Harbaugh provided some clarity for Grant Perry’s situation in comments made after one of Saturday’s camp sessions. The news that Perry had recently rejoined the team for workouts made some waves in the Michigan blogosphere, and some - including yours truly - questioned the move. With Perry’s trial date is not until the middle of July, it seemed odd that Perry would rejoin the team with the legal process not yet concluded. On Saturday Harbaugh said, “The latest step was to allow him to train and workout with the team. To have an opportunity, if it comes this season, seems fair. So that was the decision that was made” So Perry will not see the field until his case is resolved. Presumably, it would have to be resolved favorably for him to remain with the team.

Jim Minick, Biff Poggi Leave Michigan Football

Michigan Football recently confirmed news of two staff departures. Jim Minick and Biff Poggi are moving on for other opportunities. Minick, a former Marine and long-time friend of Jim Harbaugh, served in an associate athletic director position. It has been reported that Minick is leaving the program for a position in the military. Poggi, a staff advisor and associate head coach for the program, left to take the head coaching job at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore. Prior to joining the program, Poggi had spent 20 years coaching at the Gilman School - another private prep. institution in Baltimore. Best of luck to both men in their future endeavors.